Written by John S. Anastasi
Directed by Kathleen Turner
Not so long ago, the premise of WOULD YOU STILL LOVE ME IF… would have sounded farfetched. Today, the idea of a same-sex couple confronting the fact that one of them furtively identifies as opposite-sex seems entirely feasible, a recognizable part of the 21st Century’s social fabric. Something akin to a transgender Annie Hall, John S. Anastasi’s timely drama offers a bittersweet, compassionate take on the challenges of love in our complicated era.
Having gone through a painful coming-out process, aspiring writer Addison (Rebecca Brooksher) is glad to have finally found happiness with her partner Danya (Sofia Jean Gomez). Just as they are getting ready to adopt a baby, though, complications arise. Deep down Danya doesn’t really identify as a lesbian. She loves women, yes, but she loves them as a man. Fearful of losing Addison, Danya hesitates before signing up for gender reassignment surgery. Dr. Gerard (Roya Shanks) is the best in the business. But she has limited patience with Danya’s lack of commitment. There’s also the problem of how to pay for it. Although Danya is a successful attorney, the exorbitant fees involved are beyond her capabilities. For help, Danya turns to her mom, Victoria Pruitt (Kathleen Turner). Unlike Addison’s parents, Victoria has accepted the fact that her daughter is a lesbian, but now must wrap her head around this new change. One thing Victoria isn’t good at, though, is keeping secrets. A slip of the tongue outs Danya, and she and Addison are finally forced to face the music.
The script poses a number of provocative questions. Is it possible to remain in love with someone who retains the “same soul, same eyes” even in a radically different body? It is best to be true to oneself at any cost? In the end, there are no easy answers, only human beings trying to sort it all out. At times, the dialogue feels a bit too on-the-nose, with emotional details spoken aloud that might be better expressed in subtext. Overall, though, Anastasi’s fairness to his characters outweighs his occasional missteps. The most affecting scenes are the ones in which primal emotions manifest in physical actions, as when Danya beats her chest, desperately trying to communicate that the female breasts that are beautiful to Addison are abhorrent to her. Turner, who stepped in during the rehearsal process to replace the original director, does an admirable job of keeping her actors authentic and keyed into one another. Gomez is particularly impressive as she transitions from Danya to Daniel. There are a few scenes in which excess motion distracts from the narrative, but it is likely that the timing will tighten organically during the run of the show. The story’s transitions of time, place and mood are enhanced by Brian Prather’s sets, Tristan Raines’s costumes and Zach Blane’s lighting design.
WOULD YOU STILL LOVE ME IF continues through October 26 at New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues, New York NY 10019. Tickets: (212) 239-6200.